Baudrillard and Heidegger

[Cross-posted from Ghost in the Wire]

I think that one of the fundamental points of confusion in Heidegger's Being and Time comes when, in analyzing why it is that human beings so often ignore their being or Dasein, choosing the crowd over resolute and authentic existence, thereby voiding the Eigen in Eigentlichkeit.  Heidegger characterizes it this way: Dasein is "dispersed into the 'they' and must find itself."  This dispersal is, for Heidegger, part of the existential structure of Dasein, and as a consequence Heidegger offers no substantive discussion of the means or methods of this dispersal, at least not back in 1927 (arguably the "turn" towards historicity and the forgetting of Being may offer an explanation for it, but that comes some years later).

I think that one productive way to address this question is to consider the overall project of Being and Time, which is really an analytic of the subjectivity of Dasein, even if it distances itself from subjectivity as understood in Western metaphysics.  What I mean is that the investigation of Dasein starts by investigating Dasein itself as the subject of the analysis, and so there remains a bit of an emphasis on the subjectal determination of the world, which I think you can see in the discussion of "thrownness" and the "call of conscience."  Again this changes later, as Heidegger explicitly admits this as a limitation of his early work, altering his analytical emphasis away from Dasein in his On Time and Being, and elsewhere segues from the "call of conscience" to the "call of being."  Still, without necessarily following Heidegger's turn, we can look at this "error" as a productive one.

To do so, we can begin to think a brief bit about Walter Benjamin, whose work had a considerable emphasis on Baudrillard's thought.

Benjamin's most famous essay, his "Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproducibility," tackles an issue that may seem somewhat tangential or secondary for Heidegger: the role of new production technologies in changing the nature of the object.  But of course it's not tangential at all, since the worldliness that Heidegger writes about in Being and Time is, if we believe Benjamin, in part called into question by these new representational technologies.

Take as an example the medium Benjamin discusses most prominently in that essay: film.  With its manipulation of reality via the shifting perspective of the camera and the special effects it enables, the film undoes some of the standards of representation that structure the subject apperception of the object.  Or as Benjamin puts it, film’s “social significance” is “inconceivable without its destructive, cathartic aspect, that is, the liquidation of the traditional value of the cultural heritage.”  By the liquidation of traditional value, he means to imply that these new technologies, and the ease with which they reproduce themselves as representations, ruptures the sense of history that traditional objects of art once engendered.  Benjamin's words:

The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from is substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.  Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter.  And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.

In other words, for Benjamin the authenticity of an object anchors itself in the object’s aura, “the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be.”  With technologically reproduced objects, the aura is lost, contaminated by the lack of distance between the audience (an ambiguity) and the object.  We might clarify, following Heidegger, that the object becomes more readily present-at-hand; it becomes something like a standing-reserve, constantly put to the work of being available for display.  The dissipation of aura, its loss of proximity, severs the object’s status as a signifier of an historical, cultural tradition and instantiates the object as a signifier of the object’s present political moment.

Obviously we're working with two different senses of authenticity, though those two senses are not that far apart.  Heidegger is talking about the authentic existence of Dasein, its resolute existence, which is for Heidegger a "good," and Benjamin's talking about the loss of authenticity of the object of art, which for Benjamin is also a "good."

Put the Benjamin aside and on hold for a bit, and just let it simmer.  Let's recall that Heidegger spends a lot of Being and Time concerned with the way metaphysics has built up a system of thought that hides the more primordial and fundamental ontological question of Being.  The separation of beings from Being and the myth of objective reality are all rather essential backdrops for Heidegger's project.

So too for Baudrillard's thought, though for different reasons than the early Heidegger.  I think that, and i'll just go ahead and make this clear up front, we can think of Baudrillard's career in many ways as an alternate attempt to deal with the point of confusion identified above in Heidegger.  It does so not by reorienting the analysis such that it privileges temporality over the subjectivity of Dasein, but by displacing any question of the subjectal with the objectal, which is to say that Baudrillard explains the dispersal of Dasein into das Man by exposing the subject's overdetermination by the object.  As Charles Levin explains, in his book on Baudrillard:

No subject can be posited without an object: the object creates the space-time of thought, and its ontic discreteness (its ‘readiness at hand’, as Heidegger might say) serves as the model for the social individual, as both agency and entity – as a thing that wills.  (Emphasis mine.)

We can find a concrete illustration of this modeling (and an extension of Heidegger’s question concerning technology) in Baudrillard’s early writings on automatism in System of Objects, where automatism is understood as the self-sufficiency of the object.  The object as automation comes about because of and mirrors the desire for ease and lack of responsibility that Heidegger identifies in Dasein’s allegiance to das Man.  Responsibility is lost, and more of the functions of the subject are ceded to the object.  In turn, the object appears less flexible, less functional, a trick that affirms the subject-object dialectic: the subject believes the object is designed to serve (to fulfill a need) while the object assumes responsibility for the subject.  Baudrillard explains:

Automatism amounts to a closing-off, to a sort of functional self-sufficiency which exiles man to the irresponsibility of a mere spectator.  Contained within it is the dream of a dominated world, of a formally perfected technicity that serves an inert and dreamy humanity.

Is this not the same fear articulated by Heidegger’s discussion of the ordering of Gestell (enframing) in his later lectures on technology?  The inert, standing-reserve of humanity—its destiny prefigured by the service of automation.  Automation fulfills the destiny of enframing in the manifestation of the technological object, or to put it in terms slightly more in Baudrillard's idiom, the subject's enjoyment of automation produces the "object as destiny."  Of course, Baudrillard never considers the object to be merely a material entity, even back in 1968, arguing that the object is always already a form, not a content, an argument that will later be fulfilled and taken to its heuristic limits in his arguments about the political economy of the sign.  Since the object is formal, since it is inscribed in a system of cultural significations, and because the object is always in that sense locked in an antagonism with its subject, Baudrillard's insight is to recognize that the object transfigures enframing from merely a way of ordering the world to something like a constitutive existentiale of the subject.  In this sense, its essence is not technological but imaginary; the object defines the subject in relation to the image of itself.  Baudrillard again:

Automatism is king, and its fascination is indeed so powerful precisely because it is not that of a technical rationality; rather, we come under its spell because we experience it as a basic desire, as the imaginary truth of the object, in comparison with which the object’s structure and concrete function leave us cold.

The comfortable familiarity of the automated object lulls us into a subjective complacency, where we equate its action with our own: “At all events, whatever the functioning of the object may be…we invariably experience it as OUR functioning."  The automated object forces a grand misrecognition, a mystification of humanity that redefines human agency as a mastery of technology without realizing that the reliance on automation actually atrophies subjectal agency.  Small wonder then that Baudrillard jovially remarks: “The object is in fact the finest of domestic animals – the only ‘being’ whose qualities exalt rather than limit my person… they all converge submissively upon me and accumulate with the greatest of ease in my consciousness.”

At this point, it's useful to recall Benjamin's discussion of the authenticity of the object, which relates somewhat obviously to the discussion of Baudrillard thus far, in that it is technological reproducibility that makes automation and the rise of the object possible.  But there is a more interesting, though more subtle, way of integrating Benjamin's insight into aura.  I quoted Baudrillard earlier as suggesting that we experience automatism as the "imaginary" of the object. in that the object is experienced primarily neither at the level of the symbolic or the Real.  We're in the Lacanian register here, obviously, but Baudrillard is way too savvy and antagonistic to simply accept Lacan's terminology.  What if the imaginary and the Real also functioned via an auratic economy?  We would need to rethink the relation between the registers.

Lacan, for example, was very clear in thinking that the imaginary first comes about through the encounter with a mirror object that is primarily (alright, exclusively) static.  But if the object is as ascendant as Baudrillard thinks it is, and this is true because of its mechanical reproduction, its automatism, then to a certain extent it becomes ascendant through the collapse of aura; the fall of latter makes possible the rise of the former, so to speak.  And since the object is always already formal, we can rest assured that whatever happens with the imaginary, it will be tainted by the symbolic that governs the object's incorporation.  This is why, still in System of Objects, Baudrillard will describe the object as "in the strict sense of the word a mirror, for the images it reflects can only follow upon one another without ever contradicting one another.  And indeed, as a mirror the object, is perfect, precisely because it sends back not real images, but desired ones."  If the image that the object provides is the desired one, then we might be tempted to think that desire governs perception, and that in this sense, Baudrillard's object is still subjectal in the sense I talked about with Heidegger's analytic of Dasein, and, well, that would be true.  But even back in 1968, he is confident in asserting that the imaginary is in turn determined by the technological and media environment:

We may take comfort in the fact that even if objects sometimes escape practical human control, they never escape the imagination.  Modes of the imaginary follow modes of technological evolution, and it is therefore to be expected that the next mode of technical efficiency will give rise to a new imaginary mode.  At present, its traits are difficult to discern, but perhaps, in the wake of the animistic and energetic modes, we shall need to turn our attention to the structures of a cybernetic imaginary mode whose central myth will no longer be that of an absolute organicism, nor that of an absolute functionalism, but instead that of an absolute interrelatedness of the world.

Alright, I don't want this post to go on forever, and so I won't go too far beyond the Baudrillard of System of Objects, as all I am trying to highlight at this point is how the early Baudrillard project really does provide a way of explaining how it is that Dasein gets dispersed into the They: the object sucks the subject away by means of a fluid and ever changing imaginary.  The imaginary is both a projection of desire and the product of a system of signification that exceeds the subject, that is determined by the exchange and economy of objects, and that is influenced by the different auratic economies of the technological and media environment.  To this extent, we can really consider Baudrillard one of the more legitimate heirs of Heidegger's project.

Now, I should say that the subjectal residue in early Baudrillard does not survive for very long in Baudrillard's thought.  Less than a decade later, first in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign and then in the brilliant Symbolic Exchange and Death, the code comes to replace and overdetermine the imaginary, and in so doing Baudrillard will largely put to death the Lacanian registers (literally, he'll pose the problem of death in so much as death is always already the imaginary of the real).  And shortly thereafter, he'll follow his own logic in the discussion of the Code and move into the discussion of simulation, simulacra, and eventually end up in his discussion of integral reality.  But all of that comes from an initial project designed to explain the relation between object and subject, and the way that those objects form a system that responds to a particular media ecology, which is, of course, the same ecology that haunted Heidegger's analytic of Dasein.


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Hi kenrufo, very interesting post on these three thinkers. Heidegger's claim that Dasein is thrown was wishful thinking. He wished Dasein was thrown into this or that environment, and so he said that, as a matter of fact, Dasein is thrown into this or that environment. Saying we're 'thrown' is a conservative version of Marx's point from 18th Brumaire that men make history but not in conditions of their own making. It's conservative because Heidegger wants to affirm this thrownness whereas Marx wants to challenge it. Thus there is a pretty big gap between the more 'technology' oriented Heidegger and the 'thrownness' Heidegger, don't you think?

Can you guess who wrote the following?:

"Some people -- namely, those who have not yet attained a full feeling of their own freedom and absolute self-sufficiency -- discover themselves only in the act of representing things. Their self-consciousness is dispersed and attached to objects and must be gleaned from . . . the latter. They glimpse their own image only insofar as it is reflected through things, as in a mirror. If they were to be deprived of these things, then they would lose themselves at the same time. Thus, for the sake of their own selves, they cannot renounce their belief in the self-sufficiency of things, for they themselves continue to exist only in conjunction with these things. It is really through the external world that they have become everything they are, and a person who is in fact nothing but a product of things will never be able to view himself in any other way. He will, furthermore, be correct . . . . Thus he possesses only an indirect or mediated belief in his own dispersed self, which is conveyed to him only by objects."

patrick j. mullins

This is excellent and will get more than one too-hurried reading from me. Easily the single best post I've read at this blog. It makes me think also that Baudrillard did, however, continue somewhat along the lines of what Heidegger used to talk about, that finding of a thinking that could somehow 'keep up' with technology, that could think technology, instead of giving itself up--this, since thinking's giving itself up does not seem to present a single advantage to other than certain religious sects who imagine the true state to be mindlessness (I can't prove that they are wrong, but as long as I can think at all, I am constitutionally incapable of bothering with such concepts, especially when these people continue to charge.)

This could sound trite, but it isn't. By now, the popular theater, with which I have been involved in various ways during my life, has evolved to the point of an automation that easily has the same complete absence of aura that film had when Benjamin was writing about how he and Duhamel thought little of it. In my own observation and interest in the way that things like stores and entertainments have gone online, I used to imagine that shows were diminishing in quantity as well as quality. I think they probably will, but that they have not yet. On the other hand, even if some think they have not diminished in quality, they have next to no aura. There is no such thing as 'Broadway excitement' except on the rarest occasion, as when a talent like Kristen Chenoweth reminds one of old style B'way stars, as I recently saw her to do in 'The Apple Tree,' a revival of a 60s show. It's mediocre but open and not yet fully automated. Yesterday, I listened to the old score on CD from about 1966 of this show, and then to Gettel's 2005 score of 'Light in the Piazza' (which I did not see, and therefore the listening to it without anything Thespian and visual to interfere was all the keener). I never thought it would be possible to hear something that would actually prove Andrew Lloyd Webber's thorough gracelessness as a melodist to be preferable to anything at all, but in a sense this 2005 score does go into that realm, one into which much newly written music in all fields is entering: It has a purely automatic sound imbedded in its very composition. It is not ugly, like Lloyd Webber, it is even pleasant and more complex than usual Muzak. It is at least as derivative as Lloyd Webber, but less obviously (it tries to be like Stephen Sondheim, and unfortunately, succeeds to the point of being a slightly toned-down, but otherwise almost exact facsimile of the sort of music Sondheim has been writing for the last 2 decades when he just started to repeat himself), and the main effect of hearing it is of a totally closed-off situation, gone into some sort of imaginary object that the less-jaded might be able to hear as a 'welcome return to prettiness' in Broadway scores. Not a single song can be differentiated from another, and this is what passes as an important, vitalizing piece of new musical theater nowadays. It really contains nothing at all, and I've often thought that when Benjamin wrote about the 'bad aura of the cult of the film star' that he would have been loathe to imagine the day when such a vulgarism was itself no longer accessible: Film stars as once existed do not even exist any more, because even if they get huge amounts of publicity to bloat their celebrity, the tendency and effort to make all of them ordinary is thoroughly successful. And the B'way star has even longer ceased to exist: Even the superb Ms. Chenoweth is essentially a biological sport of a voice who goes about ignoring her surroundings merely by not knowing what they are yet. This kind of pretty automatism would be even more depressing if we could not still think that it exists. I could hear it on the CD, and you've been able to talk about how Baudrillard was still able to write about it. That's what's left. The sensation is one of increasingly frequent darkenings, in which an energy would not seem to be accessible to hold itself outward, and of course, great plans to stamp out all such abilities to think, by proving all human thinking inferior to what robots will eventually do, are being promoted and funded hugely. (sorry for rambling on about the B'way stuff, but I do think that the loss of aura even in seemingly 'direct forms' such as theater is already very observable by now, and Baudrillard would have been aware of this, but not Benjamin or Heidegger. Old-fashioned royalty has for some time been subsumed most of the time--all the more pointedly for making silly movies about them from time to time--and almost all pop music is meant to sound ephimeral in a specifically fashionable way.)

In any case, a superb and thoughtful post.

>>>Heidegger's claim that Dasein is thrown >>>was wishful thinking. He wished Dasein >>>was thrown into this or that >>>environment, and so he said that, as a >>>matter of fact, Dasein is thrown into >>>this or that environment.

I find it hard to believe that you would characterize the statement that we don't create the conditions of our own existence ex nihilo "wishful thinking." Therefore, I'd like to hear you say more about that since I probably am missing your point. Also, how this points to a big gap between "thrownness Heidegger" and "technology Heidegger" also escapes me.

As for the main article, it's interesting you make a connection with "Being and Time" since the connection with later Heidegger is so much more obvious. But that does point to a certain continuity between earlier and later Heidegger. I get the impression from some of your remarks that this may be because you are less familiar with the later stuff...

Kenneth Rufo

Swifty, I, too am a bit confused by the thrownness comment, but I agree with the no-named one, in that I'll wait for you to unpack it some, as I think I may be missing your point.

I'm actually more familiar with later Heidegger than I am with early, but I think that part of the "obviousness" of the connections between later H and JB becomes both less obvious and more interesting if you can chart both later H and early JB as a response to a particular subjectal problem in Being and Time, which at least in this post I'm trying to say is possible. Maybe it's not, and your comment suggesting an unfamiliarity with some of later Heidegger may be a hint as to that, in which case please feel free to offer corrections or note errors. I generally feel pretty good about my grasp of later Heidegger, but I can always feel better :P

And Patrick, thank you. Your discussion of Bway made me think of the recent trend of creating reality tv celebrities and then putting them into movies as ready-made actors, a simulation of celebrity that becomes a simulacrum of acting, that produces an automaton of film and fan reaction. An odd cycle, it's no surprise even theatre has been swept up by it.

Kenneth Rufo

Incidentally, part 2, which I wasn't planning to post here, addresses some of the issues that might arise with later H and later JB.

Feel free to read it and offer corrections or comments.

Kenneth Rufo

Hmm, wrong link - never cleared the copy cache, I guess. Try this one instead:

Baudrillard and Heidegger, 2.

Again, any suggestions appreciated.


Sorry I didn't sign the last one. I didn't mean to suggest you showed a lack of understanding of later Heidegger, your locating a turn away from what you call "subjectivity" in On Time and Being was a bit anachronistic, but obviously just because you were moving quickly. I'll read part II and perhaps get back to you. However, my (lamentable) lack of familiarity with both Baudrillard and Benjamin may prevent me from having too much productive to say about it.

I'm not sure if I agree with your diagnosis of a "subjectal" problem in SZ. It's true that beings do not yet bring the open along with them, as in "On the Essence of Truth", but instead we are told rather straightforwardly that "Dasein is the clearing of being." As you already know, what is traditionally called the "subject" comes along well after "Dasein" in this sense, though. I assume you simply mean that Dasein projects the structures of meaning that "free" the beings to be what they are. Yet this is not to be understood in terms of spontaneity, but is a hermeneutic process which involves a certain reciprocity with the factical givenness of beings--in other words, as Swifty points out, Dasein is thrown. And if we read SZ in light of part 2 section 5 (Temporality and Historicity), we can start to see something very much like later Heidegger glimmering there. But these are just musings, they'd be clearer if I had a firmer idea of what you mean by the subjectal problem and a firmer idea of what I think about it, but since I am still a bit confused as to what all three of us (you, me, and Heidegger) think, I think I'm just sort of tossing out a line and hoping to get more out of you.

Kenneth Rufo

Yeah, I tend to agree that later Heidegger, or what I've seen classified as middle Heidegger - the one most interested in historicity and temporality - which would still be later, hmm... Anyway, I tend to agree that you can certainly see the later Heidegger in SZ, but the analytic begins from the determination of the consciousness of Dasein, not from temporality, which is what I was trying to get at with the term subjectal. It's obviously not subjective, in the sense that there's no metaphysical determination of subjectivity, but Dasein is still understood as an agency, even if that agency is structured hermeneutically.

I chose Time and Being as the counter, in part to move quickly and I think Contributions from Enowning could have worked better, in some respects. But there's also a great moment at the beginning of Time and Being, where Heidegger talks about epoche as a holding back, and how one has to peel back the various layers that conspire to hold thought back, even the ones he himself did in SZ. So he says:

Only the gradual removal of these obscuring covers procures for thinking a preliminary insight into what then reveals itself as the destiny of Being. Because one everywhere represents the destiny of Being only as history, and history only as a kind of occurrence, one tries in vain to interpret this occurrence in terms of what was said in Being and Time about the historicity of man (not of Being).

SZ still has a quasi-Husserlian take on temporality, and it's still a temporality of Dasein. Anyway, my point was just that by the time we hit Time and Being, we're firmly into a different way of approaching any question of Dasein's dispersal - in effect, displacing it with an antecedent question of Being's appropriative quality and the movement of concealment. That latter, antecedent question is hardly subjectal in the way SZ is, but one could imagine other alternatives - like the one I'm trying to trace in Baudrillard - that also avoid the subjectal quality of SZ, but don't recourse to a more primordial question of appropriation. If that makes any sense...


Yeah, I think I get where you're coming from more now. I would take exception to the following:

>the analytic begins from the determination >of the consciousness of Dasein, not from >temporality, which is what I was trying to >get at with the term subjectal.

The issue is not the "consciousness" but the existence of Dasein, which precedes (in the sense of a condition of possibility) consciousness. Consciousness can be seen as a moment of reflection on the structures of existence that are already in place. As opposed to Husserl, then, Heidegger is not interested in something like internal time consciousness so much as the structure of the way we live--always ahead of ourselves, and this not just in the fact that we think about the future, but that everything around us is laden with meaning based on the directionality of our existing, and this prior to reflection. Thrown, which means that we are surrounded by beings in a world that have already been given meaning by a project which is not our own--i.e. destiny, section V. Alongside beings--we are always dealing with things and only come to think of them in an epistemological sense as objects for our subjectivity on the basis of this.

On the other hand, the starting point IS clearly the individual. Dasein is a way of being and it is assumed up until section V that this means ONE being; clearly individuation is what is at issue in authenticity. If that's what you mean, then I can certainly see that.

Kenneth Rufo

I agree with you, CBR. When I write that the analytic begins from the determination of the consciousness of Dasein, that's unclear on my end. I didn't mean to imply that consciousness precedes Dasein, but rather that the actual analyses that Heidegger performs in order to understand Dasein often begins with the structure of consciousness made possible by Dasein. I'm thinking specifically of the first few sections of division II, though I recall some similar moments in the way we are to grasp Being-in-the-world and the call of conscience. I was trying to stress a methodological and investigative means rather than an existential determination.

Regardless, your point is well taken, and I wouldn't want to be seen as asserting any sort of unity between Husserl's treatment of consciousness and Heidegger's.


Ken, pretty ambitious posts indeed and covering a lot!
I'm a puzzled by a few things. The first is about SZ and what you call it's subjectal analysis, particularly when you put it in terms of subjective 'consciousness'.
Dasien is not the subject as subjectum, right? The analysis of Dasien is undertaken to open up the question of Being because Dasein is the being whose very being is a question for it, right? Is it suggested anywhere that Daseing 'chooses' everydayness or 'inauthenticity' - the das man - as you seem to suggest? Everydayness is primary, not chosen, it's where the Da of Dasein is 'primordialy', it is not it's own origin, it is as it were 'in the delay' or 'ahead of itself', which is Geworfenheit. I'm also puzzled by your saying that 'everydaness' is not analyzed in SZ - what about the sections on stimmung, 'everyday speech', etc. It becomes pretty clear in those sections that the analysis of Dasein is not an analysis in terms of 'transcendental consciousness' but of modes of 'Being in the world.' ( well, maybe it isn't so clear as Husserl famously dismissed SZ as 'philosophical anthropology'! )
I also don't think one has to go to Time and Being to find the question of temporality! The Kantbuch, which is in some ways the sequel to SZ, states 'more originary than man is the finitude of Dasein.'
All of which to suggest that Dasein is not the ground, the subjectum of Being and of beings, it is simply the being whose being is in question for itself. It is also not the interiority of self-consciousness, it is exposed, exteriority, finite being-in-the-world.
Wouldn't the 'dominance of the object' as articulated by JB, depend upon and obscure for MH a prior predominance, precisely that of Being put in terms of, framed by the subject-object relation?
I should probably stop here, as i'm going too quickly.
What really interested me was the reference to Holderlin in your second post. You quote JB to the effect that confronted by the delirium of the world one must become even more delirious. But for Holderlin the imperative is 'sobriety', the interruption of language and representation, the 'caesura'.


Well, this is really excellent. Esp. as a counterpoint to the parade of ignorance following JB's death - no one, it seems, wants to take his project all that seriously - I realize this should not surprise me at this point but still...

brief thoughts, although I did not have time to read part two - or the comments in their entirety -

I do think you risk something by attempting to locate the means or methods of the dispersal of Dasein - you admit that for H. this dispersion is structural - which I take to mean that Dasein is as such by virtue of its always already being dispersed into das man - or rather; Dasein constitutively contains within its essence the condition of its dispersion - something which I think Levinas later exploited to great effect, ... point being that when you write:

"... which is to say that Baudrillard explains the dispersal of Dasein into das Man by exposing the subject's overdetermination by the object. "

I want to ask - is it the dispersal he explains? Or is it rather that JB details the objects interruption of Dasein's movement into authenticity from out of its dispersion? Thus the object comes to present itself as an alternative possibility - interrupting the coming of authentic, resolute Da-sein.

The risk I see is in arguing that Dasein somehow exists, pre-dispersed, before the object, which then accounts for its dispersion - as opposed to a situation whereby JB's object can be seen as maintaining Da-sein in its dispersion, thus inhibiting the arrival of authenticity. (perhaps by stalling it at the level of the object - thus the authenticity-effect of the collection of objects, i digress)

I also see this raising some fascinating questions about the Hegelian-Marxist account of alienation as it relates, or conflicts with a Heiddegerian account of authenticity - questions that come to a head, I think, for Heidegger in the question concerning...

of course that would require reading JB through a different lens.

anyway, great post.


"... which is to say that Baudrillard explains the dispersal of Dasein into das Man by exposing the subject's overdetermination by the object. "

Explain? Not merely explanation, he strongly suggests where the transactions occur: and they seem to be somewhere near Rue de DesCartes, near Ghost and Grunt lanes........

Kenneth Rufo

"I want to ask - is it the dispersal he explains? Or is it rather that JB details the objects interruption of Dasein's movement into authenticity from out of its dispersion? Thus the object comes to present itself as an alternative possibility - interrupting the coming of authentic, resolute Da-sein."

Squibb, Squibb, Squibb: A fantastic question! Give me some time to really chew on it, and I'll get back to you, as I think a lot may actually depend on the answer...


I'd say the way you framed the question precludes Squibb's option. In other words, your complaint about SZ was that it did not explain the mechanisms by which Dasein is dispersed--i.e. dispersal is TOO primordial for your account. Dasein is always already alongside beings that are interpreted for it before it can shatter itself on its death/finitude and be given back to itself as an authentic project. Therefore, das man is the starting point and requires no mechanism to explain itself. Therefore, I'd say a careful consideration of Squibb's question may lead you to change the paper's orientation a little bit...


From part 2:

>>Heidegger's account is powerful, but ultimately a bit limited, in that it retains a sort of mythic hope of phenomenological transcendence, an act of recognition. >>

I'd say it's only the recognition of the trace of an absence, or the remembering of a constitutive forgetting. In that sense, we can't be surfeited with reality; o think we are is to forget forgetting. As if modern, secular, technological nihilism were equivalent to presuppositionlessness! So there I see the danger in what Baudrillard seems to be saying.


I defy one postmod or existentialist to provide a convincing description or definition of Dasein. Dasein = __________. And I wager even Karl Marx would ask the same.


>>So in other words, reality does not exist in any verifiable sense, in any objective sense, or at least it cannot be understood to exist without a prior development of the subjectal consciousness of Dasein.>>

This is emphatically NOT what Heidegger is saying. He is saying that Being-in-the-world is a strustural whole--Dasein only exists as in a world, something like world only comes about with a being like Dasein. The world precisely preexists the "subjectal consciousness of Dasein," which could never develop outside of a world. Thus you have Heidegger repeating the position he is critiquing.


"When I hear Dasein, I reach for my luger"
Ghost of Freddy Nietzsche

Kenneth Rufo

"Thus you have Heidegger repeating the position he is critiquing."

CBR, I really don't. I apologize if I'm making a leap in my reasoning, which I suspect is the case, but to me the methodology of Heidegger's discussion of reality and its relation to Dasein is pretty explicit on this point. Here's his own words:

...the fact that Being cannot be explained through entities and that REality is possible only in the understanding of Being, does not absolve us from inquiring into the Being of consciousness, of the res cogitans itself. If the idealist thesis is to be followed consistently, the ontological analysis of consciousness itself is prescribed as an inevitable prior task. Only because Being is 'in the consciousness' - that is to say, only because it is understandable in Dasein - can Dasein also understand and conceptualize such chracteristics of Being as independence, the 'in-itself,' and Reality in general. Only because of this are 'independent' entities, as encountered within-the-world, accessible to circumspection.

He continues, making clear which version of idealism is acceptable to his method:

If what the term 'idealism' says, amounts to the understanding that Being can never be explained by entitites but is already that which is 'transcendental' for every entity, then idealism affords the only correct possibility for a philosophical problematic... But if 'idealism' signifies tracing back every entity to a subject or consciousness whose sole distinguishing features are that it remains indefinite in its Being and is best characterized negatively as 'un-Thing-like', then this idealism is no less naive in its method than the most grossly militant realism.

To me I'm being pretty clear about referencing the former, and not the latter, meaning of idealism, but if I'm not being clear, and you think that by subjectal I am reenacting the onto-ontological split, then that's my bad.

And if you read the statement you excerpt as making a positive claim, as in an appreciation of the consciousness of Dasein means we can also appreciate real reality, then again I'll apologize for a lack of clarity and express again, emphatically, that that's not what I am saying. The at least is meant as it is written, as a qualification on the above statement, with the word "development" representing the sort of methodological component I'm describing.

Nor am I trying to say that the Real does not exist absent Dasein; rather I am saying exactly what I wrote - that it does not exist based on standards of verification or objectivity. What I am saying is that there's no worthwhile investigation of the reality of the world, the worldness of the world, sans the prior investigation of Dasein, or as Heidegger puts it: "When Dasein not exist, 'independence' 'is' not either, not 'is' the 'in-itself.' In such a case this sort of thing can be neither understood not not understood."

Kenneth Rufo

"So there I see the danger in what Baudrillard seems to be saying."

Yeah, maybe. I think it's also possible that forgetting is technologically determined, which is why so much emphasis is placed on the auratic economy of the imaginary in both posts. But it's a fair objection.

Joseph Kugelmass


This was a great post; particularly useful to me was your discussion of the way that Baudrillard re-defines our imaginary appropriations of objects in a way that reveals the element of imagination and desire in the age of mechanical reproduction (and now digital reproduction), and thus reveals how it is possible for subjects to become "dispersed" in the 21st century.

I've got a couple of questions. First of all, regarding the difference between mass-produced objects and crafted objects, I wonder whether the role of imagination in creating a relationship to both (and partly creating the subject through this relationship) should be used to make the two equivalent. "Aura" doesn't refer merely to the way we imagine a thing; it has to do with the fact that we imagine some things to have had rich and unique history. Benjamin saw the democratic, even revolutionary possibilities inherent in overcoming aura, but he also saw its passing as a loss. This is clear from the tone of the piece, which is frequently nostalgic, and from its place among other, more explicitly nostalgic essays like "Unpacking My Library."

The significance of all this is that clearly Heidegger felt that there was a correspondence between the way we use objects, and the way we understand people, which means that it might be worth preserving alternative ways of imagining human beings not founded on mass production and mechanistic desire.

In addition, the whole essay is marked by a strong revulsion towards "subjectal" philosophizing. Heidegger's subjectal emphasis is treated a mistake from the get-go, and Baudrillard is applauded for moving away from a subjectal model.

I don't know whether I would agree with this implicit critique of the subject, or not, until it becomes more explicit: I would love to know where the critique of subjectivism is coming from, and to what other thinkers it might refer. From there I can consider whether or not this hostility towards subjectal theory might produce distortions of the thinkers in question.


OK, but I really think you need to rethink your language here. Since Dasein is to be understood as Being-in-the-world, and since this does NOT mean "a being that can only occur along with something like world" but means more something like "a 'being' and 'world' that occur together such that one cannot be understood to be occuring without the other", it is impossible to say that anything like a subject is ontologically prior to world, which is the exact point of the Heidegger quotes you posted time before last. Therefore your "subjectal" seems incoherent. And "reality" in SZ means Vorhandenheit (presence-at-hand or, in Stambaughese, "objective presence") and therefore is a particular interpretation of beings. In the quote about idealism, Heidegger is basically saying that the thinking thing points toward Dasein, not that the two are coterminous, nor does Heidegger take the res cogitans as a privileged starting point for the analytic--to the contrary, the circumspection of Besorgen rather than the theoretical-epistemological gaze is taken as the point of entry into the Dasein analytic. I'm not sure how much substantive disagreement I have with you, but your language of the subject is unfortunate in regard to SZ.

If your point is that Heidegger does not posit a pre-In-Der-Welt-Sein Ding-an-sich, I would ask why you would see that as a necessary step, and furthermore I don't see Baudrillard doing that either from what I can glean from your posts. The point seems to be rather that a certain meaning comes to be eventally bestowed on objects, which then condition or "overdetermine" subjectivity. But Heidegger would see this as more of a philosophy of subjectivity than he has, since the objectivity or over-against-ness of objects is still emphasized, i.e. the subject-object relation is taken as primordial thus this position is seemingly more epistemological than that of SZ. But now I'm sort of freestyling dangerously, because I'm not really familiar with the material in question.

Anyway, sorry if some of this Heidegger talk seems niggling, it's been a good opportunity to think about things and an interesting post...


Aristotelian logic (update the Analytics [and Physics] with quantifiers, predicates, summation signs, Copernicus, etc--bada bing--Carnap) itself opposes Heidegger revealings, anxious tremblings, Hegelian mysticism.


Cracking post & discussion.

Staying on niggles re SZ, maybe squibb's point above could be rephrased: the relation between Dasein and das Man is mediated by things in the world as ready-to-hand - other people are, proximally, co-users of equipment. "They are encountered from out of a world" (SZ 119) because that world is "public" (SZ 71), and has das Man (or Dasein in general) as the horizon of its referential projectedness. As squibb points out, then, the loss of the subject into the object is already inscribed in the structure of Dasein, as a movement beyond itself into a world composed of the ready-to-hand. This makes me wonder if the explanation of Dasein's dispersal into das Man which you discern in Baudrillard isn't already there in SZ's argument, with Baudrillard's 'imaginary' as a kind of sedimentation of Dasein's projections. (When you get to language in part 2 the divergence becomes clearer, since SZ regards linguistic signification as a special case of this projection.)

@ CBR's last post, i'm not clear why the propriety of the term 'subjectal' would depend on establishing that "subject is ontologically prior to world" or on identifying a "res cogitans" in SZ. To say that subject and world are equally constructed out of a situation of involvement which they do not pre-exist is not to say that they are identical. If dispersal into das Man means that Dasein is proximally not itself, its selfhood (or subjectivity) is precisely the goal to be attained - not a pre-existing substrate. Personally, i'd locate the problem with SZ here, since it's not clear how to give a principled account of the selfhood which Dasein doesn't have without positing such a substrate.